You know you are the parent of a teenager when you get “The Hand.”
In case you’ve never been on the receiving end of this, “The Hand” is a dismissive gesture made by teens in response to a parent:
a) saying or doing something embarrassing,
b) saying or doing something annoying, or
The best way to describe it would be the motion made by a school crossing card stopping traffic, but much faster and with a lot more attitude. I’m not sure if the kids learn it from their friends or if they are biologically wired to start giving The Hand when they become teens. Either way, it is a useful tool for teens because it functions both as a conversation stopper and as a shortcut for communicating the belief that you, the parent, are an idiot.
The first time I got “The Hand,” my daughter and I were out in public. I heard a song I liked and started to sing along. Apparently this is one of the top offenses listed in “The Hand Handbook” and I was immediately given “The Hand” along with “The Scowl,” a companion motion to “The Hand.” Not knowing what I had done to incur “The Hand,” I continued to sing until I got a second hand and the verbal command, “Don’t!”
“Don’t what?” I wondered.
“Don’t sing,” she ordered.
Since I was on key, I could not understand why my singing was embarrassing until later, after I consulted “The Hand Handbook,” when I learned that singing aloud in public made me a loser, and made my daughter a loser by association. Of course, two or more teens together can sing in public, as loudly as possible, without it being embarrassing. But if a parent joins in it’s worse than if the parent sings alone. This is a hand-endum to the “No Singing in Public” rule and is punishable by up to Two Hands, A Scowl and a Foot Stomp.
Fortunately, I’ve gotten used to non-verbal communication from my teens since they started texting me instead of actually talking. The problem with the texting, though, is the kids use a text shorthand that I don’t understand, and then when I complain about it, I get “The Hand.”
I call this the “Teen-Text-Hand One-Two Punch.”
From what I observed, not everyone is fortunate enough to get “The Hand.” While my daughter uses “The Hand” on my husband and me, she does not use it on her grandparents. I think she knows on some level that “The Hand” would not be met with approval by that generation, and would probably be returned with “The Whack.”
Since I know that the teen years do eventually come to an end, I think I can probably put up with “The Hand” for a while until I either cease to do embarrassing things or she decides the things I do are no longer embarrassing.
And in the grand scheme of things, there is one good thing.
At least I’m not getting “The Finger.”
This is a repeated Lost in Suburbia column, which has appeared in GateHouse Media newspapers since 2008. As Tracy Beckerman’s main column is shifting focus - her kids are grown and she has moved back to the city - we are rerunning her earlier work for readers who may have missed these the first time around. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tracybeckerman.